British Airways decides it is simply too British for its own good
BRITISH Airways have announced that they are to retrain their cabin crews to make them "less British" and "more informal".
This is apparently the latest stage of the company's strategy to market itself as a global airline. British Airways has already infuriated regular passengers by removing the easily recognisable Union flag and painting the tailfins of its aircraft in various ethnic designs.
This is all very well for a rainbow nation like South Africa because our bona fides entitle us to ethnic designs, but a British Airways Boeing with an Ndebele tailfin looks quite ridiculous on the tarmac at Heathrow under a perpetually grey summer sky. Instead of filching other nations' cultures, why couldn't they have used their own ethnic groups as inspiration?
Perhaps a pair of Doc Marten boots crunching into a Frenchman's head to commemorate the England football hooligans' victory at Marseilles? Or maybe the Spice Girls, those articulate commentators on every aspect of life in Cool Britannia, could each have a plane named after them with pictures of them cavorting in skimpy clothing painted on the tailfin. I quite like the idea of flying to London in a Scary Spice 747. It's a pity that Ginger Spice has now left the group to begin a solo career because I think a full-length reclining figure of her would look rather fetching painted down the side of an aircraft.
Apart from slavishly following some hare-brained re-branding strategy recommended by the shiny- suited marketing trendoids in search of a fat fee, British Airways appears to be telling the travelling public that it no longer wants to be thought of as British. This is a great mistake because the airline will lose the identity it has built up so successfully over the years and become just another flying taxi service.
The company argues that 40-million people fly with them each year and by 2000 fewer than 20% of its passengers will be British. Quite why that should be a good reason to go for brand anonymity escapes me. After all, if you insist on being served goat's head soup on board and want sword swallowers instead of in-flight movies then choose another airline. British Airways claims that many passengers have told them that the stewardesses are "too aloof".
These surveys are often conducted at Heathrow after a British Airways flight has landed. Someone comes up to you with a clipboard while you are waiting for your luggage and fills in a customer satisfaction questionnaire.
If a male passenger has just spent 12 hours in the air fantasising about tearing off the cabin attendant's clothing and having passionate sex with her, it's quite understandable that he will describe her as "too aloof" - particularly if all she gave him was another cup of coffee when he said he needed something hot and sweet to help him through the night. It is well known that gorgeous British Airways stewardesses are constantly being propositioned by libidinous passengers hoping to join the mile-high club, so a bit of British reserve probably comes in quite handy.
However, British Airways management think they know best and have started a new training regime called Kaleidoscope. The course is designed to encourage cabin crew to bring more of their own personality to the job. They will be encouraged to make more eye contact, give friendly taps on the shoulder and "spend more time crouching beside passengers". This can only end in tears. For example, if the guy in seat 36D gets more eye contact during the flight than me and I suffer a loss of personal self-esteem as a consequence, will British Airways provide a counselling service for me on arrival?
This tapping and crouching business is all very well for the Yanks, but we Brits don't want complete strangers coming up to us halfway through the movie and tapping our shoulders for no apparent reason.
I also sincerely hope the cabin crew will be issued with fluorescent hats to wear while they are crouching in the aisles. There is nothing worse than tripping over a crouching stewardess on your way to the toilet.
The stewardesses are also being trained to study their passengers and adapt their personalities to suit the clientele. This could be quite complicated in a plane full of people each with their own separate and widely differing personalities. Maybe instead of First Class, Business Class and Economy, British Airways should split their aircraft into Cheerful, Miserable Sod and Manic Depressive class. That way at least the cabin crew have the advantage.